Century Marks

Century Marks

Humor as a virtue

Humor is not only a desirable human trait, it is also a spiritual virtue that shows evidence of a genuine conversion, argues moral theologian John J. Slovikovski. Christ had a sense of humor, and “to be humorous . . . is to be Christlike, and to be Christlike is to be converted.” Slovikovski understands humor to be a form of mirth. Its goal is the “generous allocation of overflowing and redeemed goodness that makes right relationship with Christ as a redeemed, fully human person attractive and cheerful.” Humor must be related to the other virtues. Humor devoid of love “is nothing more than callous, egocentric and existentially costly self-amusement,” says Slovikovski (Theology, July/August).

Trying harder

In the West, students who are academically successful are considered intelligent, and it is assumed that students who struggle to learn must not be very smart. In Eastern cultures like Japan and China, such struggle is viewed as the necessary ingredient for academic success. Students who are rewarded for effort and persistence are motivated to work harder at academic achievement, regardless of their intelligence (NPR, September 2).

Faith-filled writing

Taking issue with the claim that there is a dearth of mainstream writers who grapple with issues of religious faith, Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image journal, has compiled a list (with input from others) of 25 such writers, including Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, Patricia Hampl, Ron Hansen, Mary Karr, Julia Kasdorf, Anne Lamott, Paul Mariani, Kathleen Norris, Ann Patchett, Marilynne Robinson, Elizabeth Strout, Christian Wiman and Franz Wright (Patheos, September 9).

Common humanity

For nearly 40 years Brigitte Höss kept a secret: her father was Rudolf Höss, a notorious Nazi who made Auschwitz into a killing camp that took the lives of 1.1 million Jews and tens of thousands of gypsies and Polish and Russian prisoners of war. Having found her way to the United States, Brigitte worked at a Jewish-owned fashion salon in Washington, D.C., for over 30 years. The owners knew her secret. For years after Brigitte retired, they called her monthly to see how she was doing. The owners’ son was asked why his parents employed Brigitte, knowing their own family was driven out of Germany by people like Brigitte’s father. “She is a human being,” he said. “She was not responsible for her father” (Washington Post, September 7).


Sean Gastonguay, his wife, their two small children and his father left the United States by private boat to get away from what they considered government interference in religion. They attempted to reach the island nation of Kiribati, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. A storm severely damaged their boat, leaving them adrift on the ocean for weeks. Rescued by a fishing boat, they were transferred to a cargo ship that took them to Chile. Now back in the U.S., they owe the State Depart­ment $10,000 for the flight home (AP).